Religion, mental health stigma: why abuse victims refuse help

DIRECTOR of the Lily Foundation for Human Development Liselle Roberts says religion was one of many barriers the group has witnessed which has caused victims of domestic violence to remain in unhealthy relationships.

She was speaking at the UNTT’s virtual webinar on Friday titled Strengthening Service Delivery in the Justice System along a Continuum of Care to better serve victims and survivors of gender-based violence.

The foundation is based in Tobago.

She said in addition to some being unable to afford counselling, there is also the issue of those who are either afraid to use these services or don’t want to.

“Counselling is still considered taboo…Tobago is a small space, so everybody basically knows everybody, and so there is this shame (attached to seeking help).”

She added that TT is a religious society. Based on her experiences working at the foundation thus far, some common things victims have either said or have been told by others include:

“Stay and patch it up,” “Work it out with your spouse,” “Don’t give up,” and “(Don’t forget) God’s purpose for marriage.”

“Those are some of the barriers we would have dealt with,” she said.

Kevin Liverpool, administrator of Caribbean Male Action Network (CariMAN), shared similar sentiments, saying there is still a stigma surrounding mental health.

He added that most of the barriers are social and emotional and that most men “have learnt to be men in very unhealthy ways, when we consider that we have these very toxic views about masculinity such as 'Men ought not to be weak, we are always supposed to be strong, we’re not supposed to show vulnerability, we’re not supposed to cry.'

“So those beliefs and those attitudes set up, for us, a disadvantage to accessing the psychosocial support.”

Head of the Gender-Based Violence Unit acting Supt Claire Guy-Alleyne said the unit continues to participate in outreach programmes to inform and educate the public.


"Religion, mental health stigma: why abuse victims refuse help"

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